Fireworks Eye Safety

Nicole Sopp OD The Northern Magnolia Chestnut Hill Massachusetts

The Fourth of July. The day we celebrate the birth of the United States of America and commemorate the adoption of our Declaration of Independence from the British empire with picnics, parades and, most notoriously, fireworks displays. And while many find delight in these impressive, colorful sky light shows, many eye doctors are unable to see them as more than explosive pyrotechnics that have the potential to wipe out somebody's cornea. And no we're not just "fireworks duds."  These concerns are for very good reason.

Fireworks injuries are responsible for an average of 11,900 visits to the emergency room around Independence Day and, regrettably, children under 19 have the highest rate of injury. Of the fireworks injuries reported to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, approximately 1 out of 6 were related to the eyes.1 The most common fireworks-related eye injuries include eyeball ruptures, thermal burns, contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies. And if you think those sound pretty terrible, they are, and they all have a great likelihood to result in permanent vision loss. To help avoid injuries you should follow these tips in order to love America more safely.

1. Watch the show rather than set them off, and use the money you saved to buy yourself something that won't blind you. Leave fireworks displays to professionals who are hopefully utilizing eye protection.

2. Never, EVER let children handle fireworks, even SPARKLERS. They are absolutely not toys and can reach temperatures of 2000 degrees.

3. Never touch an unexploded firework. Call your local fire or police department to have it properly removed.

4. If you are a bystander watching the show, make sure to be wearing protective eyewear, be at least 500 feet away and respect all safety barriers.

5. If despite all these warnings you still intend to set off consumer grade fireworks, you should ABSOLUTELY wear protective eyewear.

If an eye injury from fireworks does occur, seek medical treatment IMMEDIATELY and follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:

1. Do not rinse, rub or apply pressure to the eyes.

2. Do not try to remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.

3. Do not put any ointments in the eye, and avoid taking blood thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.2

Although consumer grade fireworks remain legal in many states, the potential vision and life changing risks are simply not worth the bang.

1. Tu, Y. "Fireworks-Related Deaths and Emergency Department-Treated Injuries During 2015." 2015 Annual Fireworks Report. Consumer Product Safety Commission. June 2016.

2. "American Academy of Ophthalmology Urges Use of Protective Eyewear When Using Consumer Fireworks This Fourth of July" www.aoa.org June 22, 2015.

Fine Print: Guys, I am a licensed optometrist, but this post was not written to substitute for a face-to-face examination and diagnosis by another licensed eye care provider. This post was written to be solely for informational purposes. If you think you have an eye emergency, please call your eye doctor or go to an emergency room. You can read my disclaimer more thoroughly here.

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